Even Chris Davis and his 0.00 career ERA were not safe against the barrage of home runs the Minnesota Twins unleashed at Camden Yards on Saturday.
In the ninth inning of the Orioles’ 16-7 loss in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Davis, usually a first baseman by trade, made his second career pitching appearance and first since two scoreless innings at Fenway Park in 2012. After Jake Cave ended a nine-pitch at-bat with a groundout, former Oriole Jonathan Schoop, in his return to Camden Yards, brought an end to Davis’ place atop the all-time ERA leaderboard (minimum one batter retired) with a first-pitch home run.
Davis’ pitches, sitting in the low-to-mid-80s, registered as changeups, though he was likely throwing soft fastballs to protect his arm. After falling behind 3-0 to the next batter, Ehire Adrianza, Davis bounced back with a 10-pitch strikeout.
Branden Kline, who threw two innings with no strikeouts in his major league debut, made sure to take notes watching from the dugout.
“I’m gonna ask him how to strike guys out ’cause he had more strikeouts today than I did,” Kline quipped. “Hopefully, he can give me some insight on that.”
Byron Buxton followed with a first-pitch double, but Mitch Garver lined out to center to end the inning and leave Davis with 3.00 career ERA.
Davis was in the lineup at first base for the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, going 2-for-4 with a double to improve to 7-for-17 since snapping his major league record hitless streak, but manager Brandon Hyde held him out of the later contest partly because Davis battled a stomach bug in Tampa.
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With Hyde hoping to get Trey Mancini and Jonathan Villar some much-needed rest, Davis volunteered to enter the game much earlier than the ninth, but Hyde declined. With the game out of reach late and Hyde trying to spare a pitching staff that has allowed the most home runs before the end of April in major league history, he asked Davis to pitch.
“He was actually incredibly professional,” Hyde said. “He’s not been feeling well, plays one full game. When the game got out of hand, I wanted to get Mancini and Villar out of there badly. Was trying to go through options on how we could do that and he volunteered to go in the game, which I thought was incredibly professional. I didn’t want to do that, though, and then the pitching thing came up, so I re-approached him about that. So yeah, he took the ball.”
Hyde previously passed on using Davis as a pitching position player, sending infielder Hanser Alberto to the mound in a 15-3 loss to the New York Yankees on April 7. Then, Hyde’s reasoning was that he didn’t want to put any more spotlight on Davis with the former All-Star in the midst of what became 54 straight at-bats and 62 plate appearances without a hit, both major league records.
With that behind Davis, putting him at the center of the field was a more comfortable choice.
“We needed someone to throw,” Hyde said. “That was the process. I just went to him and asked if he would be able to do it, and he wanted to do it, so he pitched the ninth.”
Davis warmed up in the Orioles’ batting cage with Renato Núñez, who was preparing to head to left field. Then still a holder of a perfect ERA, Davis left Núñez impressed.
“I mean, he’s great,” Núñez said. “I know he pitched one time or two. I was warming up with him in the cage, so I could see he had good stuff.”